Coronavirus has claimed its latest, albeit unexpected victim: the revenues of those YouTube creators who publish content about the disease.
Even by YouTube's many and “creative” demonetization standards, this latest one stands out.
The announcement was made almost in passing on Creator Insider, a channel run by YouTube employees.
The giant is updating its guidelines, the host said, “to reflect” – i.e., reclassify – the coronavirus outbreak as a sensitive event.
And that means all videos focusing on the subject have been demonetized.
The decision will remain in force until further notice, the host remarked – and moved on to other topics.
But given that coronavirus has dominated the news cycle around the world and across various media formats, including social media like YouTube for weeks now – many publishers must be left scratching their heads as to why the platform made this decision, and why now.
Some commenters wondered if the demonetization would hit only smaller creators, while big media outlets and “late night hosts” would still be able to discuss coronavirus, and continue to make money on YouTube.
YouTube, and its owner, Google, are unlikely to offer any further explanation of their “thought process” here, as that would likely shed uncomfortable amounts of light on the way their business operates.
Meanwhile, YouTube officially describes its definition of “sensitive events” in its “Advertiser-friendly content guidelines” meant to help creators push out videos they can monetize with ads.
According to these rules, sensitive events are “atrocious acts that result in the loss of human lives” – mass shootings, armed conflict, death, tragic events, and terrorist acts.
Here we see an example of Google's habitually “atrocious” habit of using deliberately broad and vague language that is open to subsequent interpretation.
On one hand, if strictly enforced, these guidelines would demonetize every channel dealing with current news in pretty much any format. On the other, the outbreak of any virus – including a potentially deadly virus whose spread has by all accounts already peaked – hardly qualifies as “an atrocious act.”
But YouTube is now so big as a platform that it can apparently afford the luxury of either being, or coming across as always looking for new ways to demonetize content at the expense of creators – and not caring about how that affects the community.